With National Fire Prevention Week (October 9-15) approaching soon, I urge families to take steps to prevent fires and learn how to be prepared in the event one occurs. As Chairman of the Assembly Volunteer Emergency Services Subcommittee, I have made a personal commitment to raising awareness of fire safety and prevention. It is particularly important that we talk about fire safety this winter as home heating costs are expected to significantly increase and consumers may seek alternative heating sources to save money.
National Fire Prevention Week
2005 National Fire Prevention Week’s theme is “Use Candles with Care.” Candles have become a growing fire threat in our communities; since 1990 reported home candle fires have tripled. As a former police officer and emergency medical technician, I have seen first hand the damage that can be caused by carelessly-started candle fires. All flammable material should be kept away from candles, and they should never be left unattended or in the reach of children.
Protecting our emergency volunteers
The men and women in our communities who give their time and put their lives at risk fighting fires and providing life-saving services deserve our thanks. That’s why I have continuously supported legislation to benefit our emergency volunteers. This year, I helped pass new laws:
- Ensuring volunteer firefighters who suffer heart attacks while performing their duties receive coverage by the Firefighters Benefit Law permanently (Ch. 138 of 2005);
- Allowing municipalities to offer property tax exemptions to unremarried spouses of volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers who died in the line of duty (Ch. 324 of 2005);
- Including school taxes in the real property tax exemption for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers if the school district decides to opt in (Ch. 261 of 2005).
Keeping our homes and families safe
Since most fire fatalities are preventable, it’s important for both the young and old to be prepared in the event of a fire. Early warning from a smoke detector and having a fire escape plan can make all the difference. A few basic tips for home fire safety include:
- Checking, cleaning and changing your smoke alarm batteries annually;
- Changing your flashlight batteries regularly and keeping them in easy-to-reach places;
- Installing a fire extinguisher in or near your kitchen and knowing how to use it;
- Planning and practicing your escape with every member of your family; and
- Place portable heaters at least 3 feet away from anything combustible, including wallpaper, bedding, clothing and people.
We all need to make fire safety a priority at home. Following fire safety tips, educating our children and safeguarding homes are essential to protect your family’s safety and well-being. For more information on fire safety and prevention log on to the National Fire Protection Association or Fire Prevention Week Web sites.